As Long As We Are Alive, We Are Alive

During the last months of my life mate/soul mate’s life, his brain was so riddled with cancer, he lost the ability to hold a thought long to enough to have a conversation, so his communications seemed more like lectures than exchanges. I remember bristling during those lectures — gritting my teeth and clenching my fists. It seemed as if he were being paternalistic, as if he didn’t trust me to take care of myself.

I knew he was ill, of course, though at the time, I didn’t know how bad off he really was. He’d been ailing for so long, I thought that’s the way it would always be, his getting weaker and weaker, maybe for many more years. But he died, shocking me to my core. And then guilt and regret descended on me. How could I not have listened to every single word he spoke during the time of his dying? How could I not have treasured his concern for me? How could I have been so impatient, so irritable, so resistant to what he had to say?

In the five years since Jeff’s death, I’ve worked through my guilt and regrets, even came to the realization that it wasn’t he I was resisting but his dying. Still, it wasn’t until my father’s death when my personal history repeated itself that I truly understood the dynamics of what had happened between Jeff and me. (In the case of my father’s last days, he wasn’t lecturing me so much as expecting to be waited on, and I simply did not want to do for him what he could do for himself.)

In my writing, I’ve been calling the last months of both men’s lives “the time of his dying,” but it was only their “dying” in retrospect. It was actually still a time of living for them, which makes my less than perfect behavior understandable. We were still involved in our relationships and roles, and it was only death that made my reactions seem horrific. If they both had continued to live, of course I could not have tolerated spending many years being lectured to or being expected to wait on someone who was able to do things for himself. These are just normal conflicts of living. And though they dying, they were still alive. Still living. And so was I.

I remember crying to the hospice social worker after Jeff died, lamenting his ill health. “He never had much of a life,” I wailed. She said, “He had a life. Being sick was his life.”

It seemed like such a terrible thing to say, but now I understand what she meant — that he was alive until he wasn’t.

This is one case where understanding can’t change anything. If I am ever thrust into such a situation again, I’d still do the same thing — carry on as if the person were alive and going to be alive for a long time. The one change will be that I won’t have regrets. Although my regrets over Jeff loomed large, I have no regrets over anything I did or did not do for my father. We were involved in playing out our roles the best way we could up to the end. And there is nothing to regret in that, nothing to feel guilty about.

I did learn something from both men, though, and that is to live until the very end. As long as we are alive, we are alive.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Taking Care of an Aged Parent

Taking care of an aged parent is difficult in the best of times — to him (or her) you are the perennial child and they feel it is their privilege to boss you around. They resent your taking charge when necessary. And yet they demand that you baby them, not just physically but emotionally.

My father isn’t much into emotions (unlike me — I deal with a whole spectrum of emotions every day) but lately he is given to panic attacks when things go wrong, such as when the oxygen tank stopped working. (He does fine without oxygen for hours at a time, so his belief that he was going to die was simply the result of his panicking.)

Today, he had a nosebleed, and he demanded that I get a doctor here to cauterize the wound. He was sure the blood was coming from his lungs and he feared he was going to bleed to death. I explained that the continued use of oxygen through a nasal cannula could cause nosebleeds and told him what to do, but of course, I was “just” his daughter who couldn’t possibly understand. Since he wasn’t used to nosebleeds, the continued bleeding scared him. Even after I called hospice and got the same assurance, that such bleeding was normal with constant oxygen use, he continued to believe that the nosebleed was a cause for major alarm. He said he seldom had nosebleeds, and that he had always clotted well. I explained that whatever had been the case in the past was no longer the case, especially since he’s taking baby aspirin to thin his blood.

I kept wanting to say, “What part of ninety-seven don’t you understand?” But I’m kinder than that, and simply did what I could for him until the arrival of the nurse I had requested.

Although I was hesitant about this particular hospice service (I’d had bad experiences with them, and the first month was rocky until people and supplies became part of the routine), they’ve been very understanding, even allow me to vent my frustration without looking askance at me for being a bad daughter.

I wonder sometimes if this would be easier if he weren’t so terrified of death. He believes in God and prays interminably, but I guess even though he fully believes his wife is waiting for him in heaven, it doesn’t mitigate the fear. In fact, he doesn’t seem to believe that he too will die. He hates being on hospice because he says it makes him feel as if we think he is dying, even though dying is a prerequisite of hospice care. He doesn’t seem to understand the palliative nature of hospice, nor does he seem to understand that they don’t provide round the clock nurses. (All this inability to understand makes him sound unsound, but the truth is, he still is sharp.)

He does fine when he can manage every aspect of his life, going about his rigidly controlled routine, letting nothing unpleasant or disruptive into his daily sphere, but when there is an emergency, his fear bursts out of him like some grotesque alien.

I am trying to learn from this. I am trying to let things happen, to let go of my control of things, to be resilient, to acknowledge the emotions that flit through my days. To not be so consumed by fear that I let life pass me by.

Of course, at the end of my life, I could be just like him — fiercely hanging on to every breath I take — so I try to understand. And after all, it is still his life to do with as he can.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

After This Death, There Will Be No Other

A friend and I talked last night about the themes of our lives, and he mentioned that a theme of my life seems to be taking care of the dying. First there was my mother (though I was not her principle caregiver, I did help when I could). Then there was my life mate/soul mate. And now there is my father. It seems as if I’ve been fighting with death for more years than I care to remember, but this final fight will be ending sometime in the not too distant future. And after his death, there will be no other — no other that I am responsible for, that is, except my own.

heavenMy father signed up for hospice yesterday. (He is strong enough and mentally alert enough that he was able to sign all the papers himself.) It seems like a big step, but the truth is he is no better or worse than he was the day before. Actually, that’s not true — he says he is doing worse, but to my eyes, he is doing better, thriving on the attention of nurses and home health care workers. I haven’t seen him so charming or jocular in years.

Hospice is not just for the actively dying, but also for those who will never get better, so just because he is now on hospice, it doesn’t necessarily mean he is close to death. I’ve talked to people whose parents were on hospice for five and even ten years. Although there is no way of knowing how long a person has, I don’t think my father is in any danger of dying soon. Getting older and tireder, yes. Dying? Not so much. He just doesn’t seem that much worse off than he was six months ago. He eats less than he did, but he drinks more Ensure. (I think he’s the one person in the world who actually likes the stuff.) So the calories add up to about the same.

This latest step is, strangely, more of an adjustment for me than it is for him. Even with my dysfunctional brother gone, we’ll never go back to the quiet days when I first got here to help him. There will be people coming and going, deliveries of drugs and other paraphernalia, reassessments and new schedules. And, of course, there will be visits from siblings who are suddenly frantic at what they think is the imminent death of our father.

I’ve gone through this so many times before, where I thought he was dying, and he proved me wrong, that I’ve learned not to make plans for when he’s gone. So, whatever the rest of the family thinks signing up for hospice means, I’m just taking things as they come.

Still, he is ninety-seven. One day his life will be finished, and so will this particular theme of mine. And then? I’ll just have to wait to find out what my next theme will be.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Joy That Is To Come

One of my online friends once told me about an old woman she knew, the most joyful person she’d ever met. The woman had lost everyone who had ever mattered to her, and yet somehow she exuded joy.

We marveled at the woman and wondered how she could find joy in the midst of life’s sorrow. And oh, my. There is so much sorrow. My friend had lost two of her children (lost to death, that is, not misplaced them.) I’d lost my life mate/soul mate who was also my best friend, my home, my constant companion. My friend and I were drowning in grief and anger, unable to find a way back to life. I’m now 1000 miles away from my controlled and coupled life, dealing with the chaos of a dying father and a schizoaffective, alcoholic brother. And yet, and yet . . . sometimes I catch glimpses of the joy that is to come and I understand the old woman’s bright outlook.

This morning I took my father his meager meal and kept him company while he ate. He is nothing but bones wrapped in a sack of skin and body fluids, and it seems as if his whole life now revolves around the management of those fluids. Mucus. Saliva. Urine. Feces. Blood. As I sat there, recognizing that this was the same man who sometimes terrorized me as a child, often ignored me, and occasionally showed me he cared, something shifted in my mind, and I saw life at a different slant.

afternoon teaIf this is what it all comes down to in the end, ingesting, digesting, and egesting, then there is no reason to be anything but joyful. The dramas and traumas of our life are eliminated just as surely as the food we eat or the liquids we drink. Sitting here, I can feel joy creeping through the cracks in my life, and I welcome it. My joy does not in any way affect my father, does not make his end days any easier or harder. My joy does not in any way change my brother’s situation. He got screwed in life’s lottery, ending up with problems I can’t imagine and even if I could imagine them, I can do nothing to help besides an offer of life’s necessities.

During the past four years, I have heard many horrific stories, stories of people’s grief, stories of people’s dealings with schizophrenic sons, narcissistic mates, abusive parents. At times I felt as if the whole world was created out of tragedy and pain, and yet, without in any way diminishing those traumas, I now understand that those tragedies are not mine. I can sympathize, empathize, listen with care, but I cannot spend my life bleeding for all the wrongs of the world, though once I thought it was the soulful way to live.

Now my idea of a soulful way to live is to embrace joy. It might be naïve of me to think so, but for now, I am Visualizing a Life of Joy.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Becoming Matriarch

My father once teased me by calling me the matriarch of the family since I am the oldest living female. (I had to stop here to think. Am I? I’m still in middle age though I am sliding down the banister into the early years of old age, so it seems impossible that there is no older female, but I can’t think of any except some distant relatives.)

Today, however, I feel as if I have graduated into matriarch-ness. My father finally conceded (at least for the moment, anyway) that he can no longer do his accounts, pay the bills, keep up with house repairs and everything else that needs doing to make sure everyone is comfortable, so he “passed the torch” to me. (Those are the words he used.) I told him I’d continue doing everything his way, but he said as long as the accounts were understandable to the executor of his estate, he didn’t care how I did things.

spiderSo here I am, matriarch of our dysfunctional little family — one elderly father who seldom leaves his bed, one dysfunctional brother who refuses to leave the area, one sister who has come to help and leaves whenever she is free, and me who sometimes dreams of leaving and sometimes dreads it. Besides that, the house is so big that something always needs to be repaired. I feel like a black widow spider, sitting in the middle of my poorly-spun web, but instead of me twanging the web to attract insects, the insects twang me, keeping me trapped in the center of it all.

There are others in the family, far-flung siblings that I used to keep informed when my father was ailing, but for some reason, during the past couple of weeks I haven’t felt like sending out my usual emails, maybe because no one is contacting me to see how he is doing. The truth is, I wouldn’t know what to say even if they did. He is definitely declining at an ever-rapid rate, but he is peaceful in his isolation. If anyone wanted to come, of course I as matriarch would give permission even if he were not so disposed, but for now we’re just letting the days slip away, one after the other, taking each minute as it comes.

I’ve played many different roles in my life. Some roles, like daughter and sister, have been with me from the moment I was born, but this new role of matriarch will not be long-lived. When my father is gone, probably within a few months, I will slip off the mantel, turn everything over to the executor, and head out on my own, unencumbered by any responsibility. For now, however, here I am, doing the best I can in a strange and bewildering situation.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Gathering Forces

My sister is here helping take care of my 97-year-old father who seems to be declining. (I say “seems to be” because so far, every time I thought the end was nearing, he managed to find his way back to life.) A bit of a mystic, she claims benevolent spirits are gathering, though they aren’t telling her what they are doing or hope to accomplish.

It’s entirely possible that benevolent energy is in the air. Normally I spend quiet weekends running errands, walking, doing housework, but this weekend, I’ve been invited to four different social events. I feel like the belle of the ball, especially since my sister agreed — Cinderella-like — to look after our father while I am out gallivanting.

windThe forces of entropy also seem to be gathering. A window broke. That my brother has been banging on it for most of a year seems to escape him, and he can’t understand why it disintegrated. “I don’t know how that happened,” he told me. “I’ve been banging on it for a year, and it never broke before.” Decorative masonry is falling off the entryway supports. The two air conditioners broke down, each with a different problem. And now the hot water is gone.

I’m doing what I can to make the benevolent spirits feel welcome and at the same time staving off the destructive powers that are swirling around, though to be honest, I don’t really believe anything out of the ordinary is happening. I’ve made good friends, and the outings we have planned simply landed on the same weekend, and things do break down. (So do people break down, though I am holding up well considering how little sleep I got last night.)

I am worried about the immediate future, though. My father asked the urologist to take out the catheter, and now he gets up frequently to go to the bathroom. He is very frail, and we are afraid of his falling, but we can’t be with him every minute. Besides, if we were to get up every time he did, we would be worn out after just a couple of nights and would be no good to anyone. (Dealing with an aging parent, especially the authoritarian sort, is always difficult because to them, we are eternally the minions, and not very bright ones at that.)

Perhaps those benevolent spirits are here to give us all strength. Perhaps the forces of entropy will win in the end as they always do, and we will wind down like those old-fashioned mechanical toys. Or maybe I’m simply feeling the effects of sleeplessness.

Only the coming days will tell.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Few Moments in an Unsettling Dream

I woke too early this morning and a hard time getting back to sleep. When I finally dozed off, I dreamt of my deceased life mate/soul mate. The events in the dream must have taken place at the end of his life when he was so often disoriented, because he was trying to cook something, and he continued pouring whatever it was into the pan after the pan was filled, getting the food all over the stove, him, the floor, even me. I tried to catch his attention so he’d stop, and when I couldn’t, I slapped him to bring him back to reality.

I don’t know where that dream came from. I seldom dream of him, and never once did I slap him in real life, especially not at the end when it took all he had just to get through another hour — or even minute — of life. I never even considered slapping him. I hate women who slap men. If it’s not okay for men to raise a hand to women, it’s just as not okay for women to raise a hand to men, no matter what the provocation.

During those last weeks of his life, I was so eaten up with sorrow for him and for me, so focused on him and his well being, or rather his as-well-as-possible being, that I found infinite patience. (It was the year before that, when I didn’t know what was happening to him, when he became a stranger I didn’t even particularly like, that too often I found myself impatient. But even then I never raised a hand to him, though I did sometimes bristle and clench my fists in frustration.)

Still, whatever the origin of the dream, it’s left me feeling teary and even ashamed as if I really had slapped him. Although I always miss him and never forget him, I sometimes forget that once I lived a different life — a life with him — and the dream reminded me of that life. I do know that if he had continued to live, life would have been pure torture for both of us, and the dream reminded me of that particular reality. But oh, it was so good to see him, if only for a few brief moments in an unsettling dream.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Saying Good-bye

100_0876bDuring the past three years, I’ve met way too many people who have lost their mates. (Until I became one of them, I had no idea the vast numbers of people living with such grief). Some, like me, lost their mates through a long dying. Others lost them instantly. I’ve never been able to figure out which is worse for survivors to deal with. The quick deaths bring such shock and disbelief that it seems impossible to survive, but we who have plenty of time to get used to the idea have to deal with the memories of our lack of generosity toward our long-dying mates. The trouble is that when someone dies slowly, as the months and maybe even years pass, we get used to their dying. The dying itself becomes a way of life, so that a flash of irritation here or a lack of empathy there means little in the fullness of the days. It’s only when they are gone that these things loom large, and we wonder why we couldn’t have held to our equanimity just a couple of months longer.

But of course, we did not know how short a time we had to be with him. It felt like a new low is all, and at the end, death came in an instant, as all deaths do, bringing shock and disbelief.

In the world of grief, I am one of the lucky ones — I got to say good-bye. That is the thing that haunts so many bereft — their inability bid farewell to the person who meant more to them than any other. It’s not just those whose spouses died suddenly in an accident or from an unnexpected heart attack who never got a chance to say good-bye. I’ve heard sad stories of hospital personnel cleaning out the emergency room too quickly so that the person left behind never even got a chance to see their beloved one last time. I’ve heard of nurses who demanded the bereft to be quiet in their weeping or quick in saying those few final precious words. I’ve heard of doctors who insisted the ill one would get better, giving the couple no reason to believe they would need to say good-bye.

One woman, whose husband died in a vehicle accident, was particularly sick with regret. After she’d been notified of the tragedy, she’d gone to the hospital to find him already on the way to the morgue, leaving her  with no way to say good-bye. She too, is one of the lucky ones. He came to her in a dream, and told her it was okay, that he’d already been gone from his body, and that he loved her. And in a way, he had already said good-bye. Shortly before his accident, he had called family and friends he hadn’t talked to in a while and chatted with them for no real particular reason, and then a day or two later he unexpectedly invited her to a special lunch. Two hours after that lunch, he was dead.

Such pre-good-byes are fairly common, as if something in us knows the time of our death and prepares for it, but many bereft are left without even such a farewell to bring them comfort. Since parting words seem so important to the grief process, the unfarewelled bereft have to find other ways to say good-bye such as writing letters to the one who is gone, talking to him, or taking a memorial trip to a place that had special meaning. Actually, these are good ideas even for those of us who did get to say good-bye. I’ve written him and talked to him. Maybe one day I’ll take a memorial trip to a place with special meaning, though to be honest, everyplace we ever went — even the grocery store — was special because we were together.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

All Right With Death?

Mystical desertA friend who lost her husband sent me an email today, relating something a woman told her. The woman said, “I’m not trying to put anything bad on my husband, but I think that if he died I would be all right with that.”

The statement shocked my friend, not just because of the tactlessness, but because of the lack of feeling.

People have said the same thing to me, and to be honest, it’s the way I felt when my life mate/soul mate was dying. I truly thought I would be okay. He’d been sick for so long and in such pain, I thought I’d be relieved when he died. And I was. For about an hour. Those last years of his life, I did many things to prepare myself for going on alone, and I thought I was prepared. That’s why my grief shocked me so much — it came from somewhere so deep inside, I had no idea such a place existed. My grief was beyond rationality, beyond emotion. It was visceral, as if part of my body and half my soul had died.

Some women truly don’t feel much after their husbands die. Sometimes the husband had been sick for so long they did their grieving before he died. Sometimes their relationship was so bad they were glad when it was over. And sometimes people are unable to feel anything. After all, about 5% of all humans are sociopaths — not killers, simply people without human emotions.

But the woman who made the remark could also be in denial, or not know the power of grief. If you know how you would feel if your spouse died, it would put an unbearable burden on you, especially if you think you are an independent woman. I mean, grief to such an extent as I felt seems anachronistic in this liberated day when we are all supposed to be strong and self-reliant. When people found out about my loss, they often gave me strange looks, as if I were an alien species they could not understand. Sometimes after such a look, people would said they could not imagine how they would feel if they lost their spouse. I always told them not to imagine it. They couldn’t. Until you have been there, you do not know the depths of such grief. You cannot know.

To be honest, I wish I didn’t know. Such grief changes your whole perception of yourself and your relationship to life. It makes you rethink who you are, where you came from, and where you are going, and there are no easy answers. The truth is, I was strong and self-reliant. Sure, my mate and I did everything together, but I was perfectly capable of doing things on my own. Still, 2 and 2/3 years after his death, I am struggling with feelings of pointlessness and meaninglessness, as if our shared life was the only thing that mattered. And maybe it was — then. For thirty-four years he was the focus of my life, and to a certain extent he still is. I feel his absence the way I once felt his presence.

For me, the strangest part of the woman’s sentence is her implication that not only would she be all right after he died, but she’d be okay with his death. In my case, I am mostly doing okay dealing with my mate’s absence. I can even accept the idea that he is dead — I have to so I can go on with my life. But as long as I am alive, I will never be all right with his death.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Near Death Experiences and the Mystery of Life

A friend sent me information about a new book, a neurosurgeon’s supposed proof that heaven is real. I admit I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read articles by the man, seen interviews of him talking about his experiences, read the reviews, and I can’t believe his experiences tell us the truth of what happens when we die. Regardless of what happened (or did not happen) with his cortex, he was not dead, so everything he says he experienced has to do with the mystery of consciousness — of life — not the mystery of death.

I felt such goneness after my life mate/soul mate died, such an irrevocable ending of his presence in my life and on earth, that although I believed in near death experiences during my questing youth, I can no longer believe people who had near death experiences were actually dead. Dead is dead. The neurosurgeon could have experienced something wondrous, something extraordinary and life changing, but he wasn’t dead no matter what his physicians said. It’s entirely possible (in fact, I’d say probable) the machinery that tracks our body processes and the current understanding of those processes, including that of the human biosystem, are imperfect. These NDE stories place too great a reliance on the doctors and the machines that proclaim death. Nothing on this earth — especially no machine and no doctor — is infallible.

During the past thirty-one months of my grief updates, I’ve often mentioned the feeling of utter goneness that I experienced, but I did not begin feeling my soul mate’s “goneness” until two or three hours after his death. Although I have no idea what happens to us after death, I do believe in the possibility of a continuum of life because I remember feeling him leave this earth.

At the moment of his death (when his heart stopped, that is), I did not feel anything except a moment of relief that his suffering was over. I watched the nurses clean his body and shroud it in a blanket, then I waited numbly for the funeral director. After she took away his body (in a black SUV, not a hearse), I left. The highway was dry, but about halfway home, my car suddenly went careening, around and around, back and forth, totally out of control. (I assumed I hit a patch of black ice, but that was such a peculiar night, I can’t say for sure.) I thought I was going to die, but oddly, I never left the road. The car finally came to a halt facing the wrong way on the highway. I was fine. So was the car. As I sat there gripping the wheel, I wondered if he had stopped by on his way out of this world to save me, to leave me a final reminder to be careful, or maybe give a shake of his ghostly head at this evidence of my carelessness. (He always worried that I wasn’t careful enough.) I remember feeling him leaving this earth — like a breath passing over head — but to be honest, I don’t know if I really felt his leaving at the time or if the impression was something my mind created later to explain the bewildering event. It was after this particular near death experience (as out of control as the car was, it truly is amazing that I survived intact), that the feeling of his goneness slammed into me, and I never again have had any sense of his presence in my life.

What was he doing for those hours before he left this earth? Finishing his dying, possibly. Closing down systems of the body and brain that have yet to be discovered. From grief, I have learned the power of our lizard brain, learned that there is way more to the brain — and human biology, psychology, and consciousness — than is in our textbooks. Do people experience things out of their normal lives when they are undergoing severe physical traumas such as almost dying? Many do. Some don’t.

As for the doctor who supposedly offers proof of heaven, the very length of his coma argues against his having died — if he’d been dead, his body would have begun to decay. Even if he was being kept alive by machines, he was still alive. His body was not dead. His brain is part of the body. Therefore his brain was not dead. And neither was he.

I am not denying a life continuum, a spectrum of life where this earth is the part visible to our physical senses, but a “near death experience” is a far cry from a “death experience.” Such stories offer insight into a greater glory, but it isn’t necessary the glory of heaven they offer but instead the glory of us here on earth.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+